I’m two weeks into my MBA program and business school has already taught me a few things about bicycles.

The first is, the video below can be used for bicycle advocacy and as an illustration about how our interests and directions influence what we see.

Second, I’ve learned commuting in business attire poses a set of challenges.

In the past, my work attire of choice was a pair of jeans and a polo shirt with a basic shoe. This year, I am making an effort to dress more nicely and have been wearing slacks, dress shirts and shoes and — occasionally — a sport coat.

The first problem is the shoes. Nice shoes and toe clips don’t go together. The clips scuff the shoes and some of my dress shoes don’t allow the balls of my feet to settle on the pedal. I’m thinking about switching to a BMX pedal with some good grip.

The second issue isn’t too bad now, but will become worse as the temperature rises. In the morning — if I go slow — I can get to work without sweating in my sport coat and shirt. The afternoon is a little more difficult, but since I’m going home it’s less of an issue.

Soon though, the temperature will rise, even in the mornings, and getting to work without sweating will not be an option. In the past, I would ride to work in shorts and change into my jeans and shirt.

Dress clothes are more of a challenge because they are easily wrinkled in the panniers. You can’t just roll up a suit jacket like you do a pair of jeans.

I’ve been kicking around some options, including taking a week’s worth of clothing to work on the Xtracycle or bakfiets on Mondays.

I do like the idea of people driving by and seeing me in a sport coat, slacks and dress shoes. It might be my imagination, but it feels like drivers treat me better.

What about you? How do you get to work in dress clothes?

18 thoughts on “What business school has taught me about bikes… so far”
  1. Actually rolling up a suit jacket works quite well if you roll it loosely and put it in a bike pannier. Most suit jackets are made of wool or polyester and they don’t crease easily. I don’t think you need to pedal with the ball of your foot, you’re thinking too hard. Just get ordinary flat pedals. My two cents.

  2. I currently work at home, so dress clothes on the bike is not an issue, but if I ever go back to an office, I think commuting would be a winter-only option. In Florida, in the summer, it’s often 97F w/95% humidity. All I have to do is take a step outdoors to break into a profuse sweat, dress clothes or not. I’m sure my co-workers wouldn’t appreciate sitting next to a guy who looks like he just ran through the sprinkler. And I’d also be very uncomfortable. I’ve also lived in Phoenix. Not humid, but also a difficult situation in the summer. 

  3. Pedals first. I use a pedal that is platform on one side and spd on the other. I keep a good pair of shoes in my office. Second, I keep the clothes that I will wear during the day my office. Your idea of taking a week’s worth in on Monday works. Third, to resolve the sweat issue, take a shower. The east restroom on the third floor of McClelland has a shower.

  4. Unless it’s really hot, I ride in my regular work clothes. In the summer, I take a couple of changes into the office. Since I’m not a big sweat-er, I can usually get by on a couple of different changes throughout the week. I also ride a folding bike though, so on days when I’m really concerned about attire and really concerned about not being sweaty, I just take my bike on the bus with me in the morning, and then ride home in the afternoon.

  5. Thanks, Erik. I’m planning on throwing regular pedals on soon. I’m using some flat pedals on my bakfiets and like the fine.

  6. I was thinking about the bus too, but I just don’t think I could give up my bike commute. I suppose if it was just once in a while, I could handle it.

  7. Not as good for your exercise, but an electric assist makes a world of difference and gets over 1,000 miles per gallon equivalent. On your way home downhill, you could work harder for the exercise. After 15 years or so commuting year-round in office work clothes, I tried electric one summer and what an amazing difference.

    I know, all you need Mike is another excuse to get a different bike….

  8. I was fortunate and had a shower and storage at my last office. I would pack a bag of everything I needed for the week and drove to work on Monday’s, or would just pack up my bike. I would get to work a few minutes early and get ready there. This way wardrobe and sweating aren’t issues (I had an 18 mile commute). Not everyone has those amenities though…

  9. I tend to take my Big Dummy on Mondays to bring a week’s worth of dress shirts and slacks at the office, which I store in a garment bag in a little used coat closet.   Rolling them up in dry cleaner bags before stuffing them into the bags helps keep the wrinkles at bay, then I hang them up at the office.  I only need to bring in socks and undies with me daily, and I bring home the worn clothes each night.   I then use my road or cross bike during the rest of the week as its faster than the Dummy by about 20 minutes, but once I put an electric motor on the Dummy I may use it more often.

  10. Unless your dress shoes have lugged grippy soles (the good ones don’t), don’t get BMX pedals — waste of money and time.

    You might try Powergrips, a size up, rather than traditional toe straps.  Thing is, the online reviews indicate some people love them, some people hate them. Trek of Tucson had them in stock a couple of years ago, Performance has them intermittently.  The inside of the straps could probably be fixed by gluing-in a soft fabric if necessary.

    Maybe you could ride using quality strapped sandals (Nike, Adidas, New Balance) (and get the wicking effect) and carry in panniers (or stash somewhere)  traditional dress shoes to change over to prior to class. If the sandals have lugged soles,  BMX pedals become viable w/o straps.

  11. After having commuted for nearly 10 years on various bikes I finally ended up with an old peugeot  with nice leather saddle, fenders, sit up bars, lights and folding wire baskets. Cheap, heavy and slow. Sitting up and slow allows more time to look around for the bone crunching ingnoratus coffee swilling cell phone drivers. As the seasons changed I was able to ride in earlier and stay some what fresh. As time went on I ended up having a second wardrobe at work, pants, shirts, and shoes, and would drive one day for the hauling.  Watch out for metal pedals and some type of shoe soles, leather, some rubber, as they get chewed up. I was about to change out pedals for some beach cruiser so I could wear any shoe, or bare feet, when I became semi retired with even more time to ride my other bikes.  Safe travels…

  12. I hadn’t thought of power grips. The bmx style pedals on my bakfiets works “OK” with my dress shoes that have the non-rubber soles.

    I also didn’t think about the damage those pedals could do to them. I’ll have to try to nab a pair of power grips and give them a whirl.

    Part of it is vanity. I like looking good on the bike too.

  13. Keep a jacket and shoes at the office.  Then packing a fresh shirt and slacks is quite simple.  I use a heavy plastic sheet cut to size to fold my shirts over and they stay perfect in my pack.

  14. As a woman, I find it pretty easy to commute in the summer here in Northern California.  I’d wear a sleeveless top under a jacket or cardigan. In the mornings and in the office I’d wear the jacket and on the hotter evening commute I’d strip down to sleeveless top. 

    Perhaps you could pack your jacket and dress shirt (garment bag panniers do work) and ride into work in a T-shirt and slacks, then change in the office.

  15. I have powergrips and love them. Maybe I have them adjusted wrong though because they wore a small hole in the side of my shoe. It’s not really visible from above, so I still feel I look OK. The shoes are matte navy blue so scuffing doesn’t show up much. For a dressier look I’d wear shinier shoes with just flat pedals.

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